Best Books of 2012

Here are the top 20 books of 2012 (so far!). Which ones are your favorites? Which ones do you most want to read? What’s missing from this list? Let us know in the comments.

1. Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
Lone Wolf has much to say about families—both human and animal—and the love, resentment and desperation that come into play during one human family’s time of trouble.” Arlene McKanic, March 2012

2. The Fault In Our Stars
by John Green
“Sixteen-year-old Hazel Lancaster is the narrator, and the heart, ofThe Fault in Our Stars. Diagnosed with incurable thyroid cancer at age 13, Hazel left school, but got her GED and now attends community college. She gets around all right, oxygen tank in tow—and dreads going to a weekly support group.” —Linda M. Castellitto, January 2012

3. The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant
The Night Swimmer is about a young American couple who move to Ireland and open a pub in a small coastal village outside of Cork. But Matt Bondurant’s suspenseful third novel is more Hitchcock than A Year in Provence . . . it tells a familiar, almost archetypal story of an outsider trying to adapt to an impenetrable and violent rural community.” —Lauren Bufferd, January 2012

4. The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
“Loosely based on Charlotte Brontë’s beloved classic Jane Eyre, the newest gem from acclaimed novelist Margot Livesey follows the trials of a determined young orphan as she searches to find her place in the world.”
Amy Scribner, February 2012

5. Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung
“The night her sister was born, Janie was warned by her grandmother to take good care of the new baby, since in their family, a sister disappears in every generation. So begins the beautiful debut novel Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung, a masterful exploration of generational tensions within a Korean family on two continents.” Lauren Bufferd, March 2012

6. By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair
“Though the memoir deals with many things—the trials of middle age, parenting a disabled child, life in the Midwest, marital hardship—the book is at its heart a combination love story and coming-of-age story. Readers will discover opalescent truths on every page.”
Katherine Wyrick, March 2012

7. The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
“The privileged and insular society of an Eastern prep school in the 1980s is unveiled and brought vividly to life in Amber Dermont’s emotionally rich debut novel.”
Deb Donovan, March 2012

8. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
“‘Is she real?’ is the question the reader asks about the strange, wild little girl at the center of Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel, The Snow Child. Faina shows up in the dead of winter at the home of Mabel and Jack, a married couple who are trying, without too much success, to make a go of it as homesteaders in post-World War I Alaska.”
Arlene McKanic, February 2012

9. Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
“What if, instead of dying in Auschwitz, Anne Frank had lived, spirited away to America to spend the next 60 years huddled in an attic, tapping out a book she hopes will equal the emotional power of her Diary? Shalom Auslander’s absurdist comedy explodes from that outrageous premise.”
Harvey Freedenberg, January 2012

10. The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson
“It isn’t surprising that Ella Beene’s husband, Joe Capozzi, dies within the first 10 pages of The Underside of Joy. After all, the jacket copy reveals that this story is about the personal struggles and family challenges Ella faces after her husband’s death. But the juxtaposition of Seré Prince Halverson’s descriptions of pure, unadulterated joy, and the reader’s knowledge that Ella’s joy has an expiration date, is breathtaking.” —Carla Jean Whitley, February 2012

11. Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh
“‘Somehow, this time, I would make it work.’ That’s the quiet plea of 12-year-old Mikey Walsh, desperate to fit in with his Romany Gypsy family. Such is the power of Walsh’s fantastic memoir,Gypsy Boy, that your heart breaks for his empty hope.” —Pete Croatto, February 2012

12. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
“The subject of technology is just one slim thread in the novel’s rich tapestry of story exploring how we sustain hope and idealism in a world that presents us with unavoidable sadness and sometimes seems bent on its own annihilation.” —Alden Mudge, March 2012

13. The Expats by Chris Pavone
“How well do you know your spouse? Or your best friends? Even if the thought never occurred to you, it will by the time you’re halfway through The Expats, Chris Pavone’s clever debut spy novel that’s suspenseful enough for a man yet introspective enough for a woman.” —Jay MacDonald, March 2012

14. The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
“While the novel’s rich subplots are brimming with romance, family pathos and details of Romany culture, The Invisible Onesremains a mystery at heart.” —Karen Cullotta, January 2012

15. Carry the One by Carol Anshaw
“Between the opening, at a country wedding, and the ending, at an unfortunate funeral, Carol Anshaw tells the story of three siblings who are bonded together not only by blood, but also by the tragedy of having accidentally run over an unknown girl.” —Megan Fishmann, March 2012

16. A Good American by Alex George
“It’s often said that our country is a melting pot, and we all came from somewhere else. In his U.S. debut, Alex George, an Englishman practicing law in Missouri, portrays this quintessentially American experience.”
Eliza Borné, February 2012

17. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
“Part thriller, part love story, part tale of daring impersonation, part wrenching examination of repression and its toll on human nature, the novel is set in North Korea (with a side trip to Texas).”
Alden Mudge, January 2012

18. The Odds by Stewart O’Nan
“Stewart O’Nan (Emily, Alone) has packed a huge amount of emotion into this slim novel. In less than 200 pages, he manages to examine the whole history of a marriage—complete with excess baggage, lingering resentments, equal amounts of frustration and fondness.”
Becky Ohlsen, February 2012

19. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
“Like Joshilyn Jackson’s previous four novels, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty presents the real South in a tale that is less interested in the stereotypical poverty, hackneyed regional idioms (think “knee-high to a grasshopper”) and unbearable humidity than in the lives of three fiercely brave women, who just happen to be Southern.” —Katie Lewis, February 2012

20. No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel
“It takes a very fresh perspective, a very particular voice, to tell a new tale of the WWII era. Ramona Ausubel is one of those voices, and with her debut novel she’s managed to weave a WWII story that is utterly revolutionary.” —Matthew Jackson, February 2012


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